Decline of the Congress Party - May 31, 2016

The recent Legislative Assembly elections in four states, viz., Kerala, Tamil Nadu, West Bengal and Assam and the union territory of Puducherry confirmed the trend of declining influence of the Congress party in national politics. In this round of elections, Congress lost power in Assam and Kerala (with allies) and its alliance with the CPM in West Bangal resulted in further erosion of the influence of the Left in that state. BJP swept Assam with the help of its allies. It also opened its account in Kerala with one seat and a significant vote share (11%). The CSDS-Lokniti survey shows that youth attracted more towards the BJP, as also more men compared to women. The decline of the Congress party will have a long-term impact on democracy in India as it is the only national party other than the BJP which has some base in almost all states. The role of oppositional party is very crucial in any democracy; however, the inability of the Congress party to effectively play that role is quite evident. The leadership vacuum in the Congress party and a very long process of organizational decline are the issues of immediate concern for the party. The party has not been successful in connecting with young generation and its traditional support bases are shifting their loyalties. Digvijay Singh recently admitted in an interview that party does not have any effective strategy to make use of social media. The scholars believe that the decline of Congress is the decline of the idea of India which is pluralistic, secular, and accommodative of diverse beliefs and ways of life. This idea of India was dominant in the theory and practice of the Congress party in the first few years after independence; however, it slowly gave way to politics of patronage and populism which betrayed the trust of common people. When the all-India dominance of the Congress party declined in the 90s, it showed the resilience to sustain by making coalitions with regional parties. But it is facing the existential crisis now and there is no sign of breakthrough so far.

- Prof. Kalpana Dixit

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